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Posted on Tue, Dec. 05, 2006
Lockyer joins call for ruling on ban
ATTORNEY GENERAL WANTS FINAL DECISION ON GAY MARRIAGE
By Howard Mintz
San Jose Mercury News
Attorney General Bill Lockyer Monday asked the California Supreme Court to review the legal challenge to the state's ban on gay marriage, despite having successfully defended the law in a lower court.
In announcing his decision, Lockyer stressed the importance of having the top court in California decide the contentious issue because it is of ``extreme importance and interest.''
``The legality of same-sex marriage remains an issue of direct, personal importance to same-sex couples and their families,'' Lockyer's brief states. ``Like all Californians, these couples rightly expect the final resolution of this controversy to come from the state's highest court.''
A state appeals court, in a 2-1 ruling, in October upheld a California law that restricts marriage to a union between a man and a woman, the latest chapter in a legal battle that began in February 2004. San Francisco city officials, same-sex couples and civil rights groups have challenged the ban, arguing that it is unconstitutional and discriminates based on sexual orientation.
Lockyer, who personally does not oppose gay marriage, has been defending the state law in the courts, along with organizations aligned against same-sex marriage. Lockyer has argued in court that California's domestic partner provisions offer the same legal protections as the marriage laws.
San Francisco officials and civil rights lawyers last month asked the Supreme Court to hear the case. Lockyer, who will be replaced as attorney general in January by Jerry Brown, has now joined in that legal move.
Legal experts expect the Supreme Court to review the appeals court ruling, particularly because the justices invited the current legal challenge at an earlier stage in the gay marriage proceedings.
Gay Marriage Bill Introduced In Calif. As AG Asks High Court To Take Appeal
by 365Gay.com Newscenter Staff
Posted: December 4, 2006 9:00 pm ET
(Sacramento, California) The new California legislature was sworn in on Monday with Democrats continuing to hold majorities in both houses - 48-32 in the Assembly, and 25-15 in the Senate.
The first order of business was the reintroduction legislation by Assemblyman Mark Leno (D-San Francisco) to allow same-sex couples to marry in California. While that was was occurring in Sacramento lawyers for Attorney General Bill Lockyer were in San Francisco filing a brief asking the Supreme Court to take up the issue of gay marriage.
Leno's bill, the Religious Freedom and Civil Marriage Protection Act is is identical to a bill passed last year in both the Assembly and Senate but vetoed by Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger.
It would amend the Family Code to define marriage as a civil contract between two persons instead of a civil contract between a man and a woman, and again reaffirms that no religious institution would be required to solemnize marriages contrary to its fundamental beliefs.
Leno's bill will be heard in policy and fiscal committees in the Assembly and Senate beginning early 2007.
The governor's office did not say Monday if it would again veto the bill should it pass both houses. When Schwarzenegger voted the bill last year he said the issue of same-sex marriage should be left up the courts or a plebiscite. (story)
Attorneys for same-sex couples filed an appeal with the state Supreme Court last month asking the justices to overturn a lower court ruling that upheld the California ban on gay marriage. (story)
The lawsuit wraps together three separate cases that arose after San Francisco Mayor Gavin Newsom in 2004 began allowing marriage licenses to be issued to same-sex couples.
In March 2005 Superior Court Judge Richard Kramer ruled that the law denying same-sex marriage was unconstitutional. (story)
Kramer stayed his ruling while the state appealed. In October the California Court of Appeal in a split decision overturned his ruling.
The Supreme Court has until February 14, Valentine's day to decide whether to hear the case.
Although it is unusual for the Attorney General to request Supreme Court review of a case he won at the Court of Appeal, Lockyer, a Democrat, has consistently stated that a ruling from the high court is necessary because it is an issue of extreme importance and interest, and a conclusive resolution on the constitutionality of state law should be provided by the court.
"(T)he legality of same-sex marriage remains an issue of direct, personal importance to same-sex couples and their families," Lockyer's brief said.
"As this Court previously noted, the decision by San Francisco officials to authorize, perform and register thousands of same-sex marriages 'created an unusual, perhaps unprecedented, set of circumstances.' Those couples married in San Francisco have since seen their marriages invalidated and waited as the superior court and the court of appeal reached opposite conclusions about whether the State is constitutionally compelled to authorize same-sex marriages. Like all Californians, these couples rightly expect the final resolution of this controversy to come from the State's highest court."
This is not the first time Lockyer has sought California Supreme Court review on this issue.
Nearly three years ago, in response to San Francisco Mayor Gavin Newsom's decision to recognize same-sex marriages in that city, Lockyer asked the court not only to rule on whether Newsom had the legal authority to act as he did, but also to rule upon the constitutionality of the state's opposite-sex marriage laws.
The Supreme Court held that Newsom lacked the power to recognize same-sex marriages, but declined to rule on the constitutionality of state law, instead referring the question to the trial court level for review.